Punky Brewster (Season 2, Ep 39): Changes Part 1

Hi. Welcome back to my re-watch of Punky Brewster. If you want to read my prior reviews, you can check them out HERE.

I am watching this show on the NBC App. For some reason, not all of the original run episodes are on the NBC app. As a result, I will only review the ones I can see. If I find the missing episodes later, I will blog about them, re-number my episodes, etc.

I will provide a short episode summary here at the top, then a long and detailed summary just below that. There’s a sub-section near the bottom (scroll down) labeled “reaction” if you just want to get right to my thoughts about the episode.


Henry’s photography study burns to the ground and he is underinsured. The stress of being unable to pay his bills gives him a bleeding ulcer and a trip to the hospital. While there, the social worker comes by to deliver Henry’s adoption papers for him to sign. However, once the case worker learns of Henry’s situation, he decides that Henry is not well-suited to continue caring for Punky. He decides she needs to return to Fenster Hall.


♪♫Maybe the world is blind,
Or just a little unkind.
Don’t know.

Seems you can’t be sure
Of anything anymore.

You maybe lonely and then,
One day you’re smiling again.
Every time I turn around,
I see the girl who turns my world around.
Standing there…

Every time I turn around,
Her spirit’s lifting me right off the ground.
What’s gonna be?
Guess we’ll just wait and see.


Henry, Punky, and Brandon are sitting around a table playing cards. Henry is smoking a pipe. Punky and Brandon are both wearing very official seeming cardplaying hats. Punky is chewing on a pretzel stick and Brandon has his cards in his mouth. Henry wagers two chocolate “chippies.” Punky sees Henry’s wager and raises him a macaroonie. Brandon pushes his cookies into the middle of the table, too.

Henry has two pairs. As he puts his hands on the cookie pile, Punky puts her hand on his and says not so fast. She has three jacks. When Punky reaches for the cookies, singing “I’m in the cookies,” Brandon puts his paw on her hands. Henry takes the cards from the good boy’s mouth and announces that Brandon has a Full House. He barks twice and uses his paw to pull the cookies toward his end of the table. When everyone gets out of their chair, Henry sees some extra cards on Brandon’s chair.

Henry: No wonder he won, he was cheating! [Brandon leaves quickly through the doggie door into the kitchen]

Outside we hear the sirens from a firetruck. Henry tells her not to worry about it. Just then, though, the phone rings. He is asked about whether he owns a photography studio at a certain address and he says he does.

Henry: What?! I’ll be right there!

Punky asks Henry what is the matter and he tells her his studio is on fire. The two rush out the door immediately. Henry arrives on the scene and talks to a fireman. Henry asks him how the fire started. The fireman tells him that he believes it was a short in the wire. When Henry asks him how bad the damage is, the fireman does not give him good news.

Fireman: Whew, I’m glad I’m not the owner of this place. Because whoever it is, he got completely wiped out.

Henry: It’s me.

Henry and Punky enter the studio with Punky offering, optimistically, that maybe it is not as bad as they think. When Henry tries to open the door, it falls over. Inside we see the charred shell of what used to be a photography studio. As Henry is grieving, a reporter rushes in and does an impromptu interview. She is friendly in an unpleasant way.

Reporter: Mr. Warnimont, your business seems to be completely destroyed. How do you feel?
Henry: I feel awful.
Reporter: Would you care to elaborate on that?
Henry: No.

She then kneels down and asks Punky how she feels. Punky identifies herself sa Henry’s foster daughter and she tells the reporter that she does not think it’s nice to put the two of them on TV when they’re both feeling so bad. At the end of the interview, the reporter tells him she hopes he gets his hardware store rebuilt as soon as possible. Henry is too stunned to tell her it was a photography studio.

After they leave, Punky asks Henry if he is okay. He replies that everything is ruined. He has a temporary shred of hope. He sees a cabinet that appears to be okay and tells Punky his negatives are inside. When he opens the drawer, though, he finds that the drawer is filled with water that has ruined the negatives.

Henry: My life’s work. Ruined. Destroyed. Irreplaceable.

As Punky hugs him, he asks aloud what he is going to do.

Later, we see a very distressed Henry working on his bills. Punky is watching him from the doorway as he says aloud that he cannot pay them all. He puts a hand on his chest and drinks something that looks like some type of digestive aid.

Some time after that, Mrs. Johnson is in the living room with Henry. She tells him that she would like to think they are good friends. Henry agrees that they are. She asks him if he feels like talking.

Henry: Betty, I’m in big trouble.
Mrs. J.” You are?
Henry: Thanks to the fire. I’ve got no money coming in and I’ve sure got a lot going out.

He tells her that for the first time in his life, he cannot meet his obligations. She asks if he has any rainy day money and he says that the current situation exhausted it.

Mrs. Johnson: I find that awfully hard to believe. I say this out of love, Henry, but you’re the cheapest man that ever lived. I bet you’ve still got the first dollar that your father ever earned.

Henry: Exactly two weeks ago, I invested most of my savings in brand new high speed developing equipment for my studio.

Henry drinks some more of that digestive aid we saw earlier. Mrs. Johnson asks him about fire insurance. He tells her he bought a policy in 1952 when he purchased the studio and then confesses that he never increased the coverage in the 34 years since.

Just then, Henry doubles over in pain. He tells her that he is fine. She threatens to call an ambulance. He tells her he is fine and she points out that stomach pain that strong is serious. He insists loudly one more time that he is perfectly all right before falling down to the couch in agony.

Henry: Betty, I’ve got an idea. Why don’t you call an ambulance.

At the hospital, Mrs. Johnson is in her nurse’s uniform. Mike and Punky arrive. She tells Punky that she cannot go in to see Henry just yet but assures her Henry will be fine. Mike then insists that Henry will be fine.

Punky: How do you know that?
Mike: Because I owe him ten bucks.

The doctor comes out of the room. He tells them that Henry needs rest. When Punky asks him what is wrong with Henry, he tells her that Henry has a bleeding ulcer. Mrs. Johnson says that she knew it and she diagnoses the problem as Henry worrying over his studio. The doctor says that Henry needs to stop worrying, pointing out that if Henry has another one he will have to operate. The doctor says that at Henry’s age that type of operation could be dangerous. Punky asks him when Henry can come home and the doctor replies in a few days. He says he wants to keep Henry under observation for a few days.

Punky enters Henry’s hospital room and finds him inside sleeping. She crawls up next to him on the bed, kisses him on the head, and lays down beside him.

Later, Punky and Cherie carry heavy suitcases filled with Punky’s stuff up the stairs to Mrs. Johnson’s apartment. Punky says she did not want to be caught short on bandanas. After they get inside, the doorbell rings. When Mrs. Johnson opens the door, a tall well-dressed man holding some papers asks her if this is the Warnimont residence. She asks him who wants to know. He tells her that his name is Simon Chillings from the Department of Children and Family Services. He says that he has papers for Henry to sign.

Mrs. Johnson invites him inside. Punky approaches him and says that he is not her regular social worker. He shows her the paperwork he has. He tells her that when Henry signs the papers, he will not be her foster dad anymore. He tells her to read the papers. Punky reads aloud that the papers are a petition to adopt. She is in disbelief and makes the man confirm, multiple times, that these papers would make Henry her official legal father.

Punky: EEEE!!!!! [hugs Mrs. Johnson, then Cherie, then Mr. Chilings]

She then tells Mr. Chillings that she bets Henry will be surprised and happy when he finds out. At this point, the social worker asks for them to get Henry to him to sign the papers. Punky explains that Henry is temporarily in the hospital due to worry over his business burning down and the fact that they have run out of money. Mrs. Johnson realizes what she just did, by saying all of that, but cannot say anything to fix the situation. Mr. Chillings takes it all in with an “I see.”

Mrs. Johnson sends them out of the room so that she can talk with the man by herself. She says that kids exaggerate and offers to take the papers to Henry so that he can sign them. Mr. Chillings says that he is afraid he cannot let her do that.

Chillings: It seems to me that this situation needs further exploration.

He leaves. Mrs. Johnson looks miserable.

Later, in the hospital, Mrs. Johnson enters Henry’s hospital room alone. She tells Henry the girls are in the gift shop. Before she gets a chance to talk to Henry, and explain what happened, Mr. Chillings knocks on the door and enters. Mrs. Johnson tries to send him out of the room, so that he does not upset a recovering Henry, but Henry tells her that Mr. Chillings must be there because of his adopting Punky.

Mr. Chillings says he has to ask Henry a few questions. He verifies with Henry that Punky’s story regarding the fire and their lack of income is correct. Henry confirms that the story is correct. When he asks Henry how he plans to support Punky, Henry’s only answer is that he will find a way. Mr. Chillings apologetically states that the guidelines are clear and that he is herewith removing Punky from his custody.

Henry grabs him by his suit jacket, pulls him toward the hospital bed, and tells him nobody is taking Punky from him. Chillings replies that if forced, he will return with police officers to take her. Henry relents. He says that he will start his business again and get Punky back.

Mr. Chillings: Well, perhaps you will. But in the mean time, she is going to Fenster Hall.

We see Punky holding a bunch of balloons and getting off a hospital elevator with Cherie. She asks Cherie if she believes Henry will like the balloons. Punky says she wishes she had more balloons.

Punky: I want to get him a great present so he’ll always remember the day he adopted me.
Cherie: Don’t worry, he’ll always remember this day.

They enter Henry’s room. Punky is elated to see Mr. Chillings and she yells that Henry signed the papers.

Punky: I’m officially adopted! [hugs Cherie]

As Punky smiles, we get a “To be continued….”ending.


The writers for Punky Brewster were sadistic. I imagine that before the season starts, everyone comes up with a list of horrible things that they can do to her throughout the year.

“A cave demon, David? And it kills all of her friends and then brings them back as demons? And Punky has to fight a giant spider with a tomahawk before she fights the cave demon? Alright, who else?”

“Jim… your idea is that there is a serial killer loose in Punky’s neighborhood? You end the episode on a cliff hanger of Henry going out for work and the killer is still on the loose? You mad man!”

“David again. Henry’s store burns down. Henry gets hospitalized. Punky is taken away. But you want to add the twist that it happens on the day she was supposed to be adopted? I love it!”

Unlike a lot of the usual gut punches that this show delivers, at least I know going in that they aren’t about to fire George Gaynes and get rid of Henry. So there’s that. That said, the circumstances here are pretty over the top. This show was aimed at small children. Did the writing team want small children to know how much financial stress they are putting on their parents? Good grief.

The one bright spot of this episode was Betty Johnson calling Henry the cheapest man who ever lived.

Mrs. Johnson: I find that awfully hard to believe. I say this out of love, Henry, but you’re the cheapest man that ever lived. I bet you’ve still got the first dollar that your father ever earned.

I guess I’m looking forward to seeing Punky forcibly pulled down the hallway by mean Mr. Chillings in Part 2.